Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Yes, we are thankful today but we decided to balance off that sweetness with a few sour patches

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Here it is. The obligatory Thanksgiving column, sharing all for which we are thankful. And that leads the list. A chance to share our thoughts on a daily basis.


• And yet, we realized something as we began writing this morning. For everything we’re thankful for, there is a corresponding item we aren’t. That’s sports. A Newtonian-type of reaction contained in every interaction.

For example, we’re thankful the Mariners have Julio Rodriguez in their lineup and will for the next few years – at least. But we’re not thankful the organization seems to be more interested in making money than winning banners. Just ask Eugenio Suarez.

We’re thankful the Apple Cup will continue, even after the Fall of the Pac-12 Empire. But we’re not all that happy that it’s going to played in September, keeping the next generation of Washington State fans from building its own Snow Bowl memories.

We’re thankful for Pete Carroll’s time with the Seahawks. A Super Bowl title ensured that will always be true. But we’re flummoxed on an almost weekly basis by the mistakes the team makes, something that seems to go hand-in-hand with his loosey-goosey management style.

We’re thankful our dad passed along such phrases as loosey-goosey. But we also wonder on an almost daily basis why we have to shout out his sayings some 60 years after we first heard them.

We’re thankful Seattle has an NHL team. But why the heck hasn’t the NBA resurrected the Sonics by now?

We’re thankful Gonzaga has developed one of the nation’s top basketball programs since the turn of the century. We’re also thankful Mark Few’s rising tide has helped raise every boat in the athletic department’s dock. But we’re actually worried what realignment will do to Zags’ safe harbor, the West Coast Conference. Hopefully, the winds of change won’t upset everything.

We’re thankful the Sounders have one of the MLS’ best franchises – and win often. But we’re still perplexed how a league can play one round of the postseason and then take nearly two weeks off. Way to build momentum.

We’re thankful college athletes have finally been given some freedom and some more appropriate recompense for what they do – and what they do for their school’s bottom line. For the life of us, though, we don’t understand how the NCAA, with all its resources in money and brainpower, allowed the change to happen with such little thought or oversight. It’s almost as if the organization was blindsided by a change forced by a seven-year lawsuit.

We’re thankful we can watch pretty much any college athletic event we want when we want it with whatever device we want. Technology is amazing. The power media companies have over the schools, however, is troubling. And it’s led us to something of an Armageddon.

We’re thankful our area has an exceptional group of high school coaches in all sports. It means the next generation of Inland Northwest athletes are being given, for the most part, a great foundation for the rest of their lives. We can’t understand, however, how the job has morphed into something almost impossible to do well without a lot of sleepless nights and pressures from outside.

We’re thankful no one at Washington State, when confronted with a seemingly impossible-to-reverse fate, decided to throw up their hands and just move on. That they decided, along with Oregon State, to fight. To try to keep alive a conference with a history that marvels that of any. We are actually angry, however, that it came to that. And this December 23, when Festivus – a holiday for the rest of us – rolls along, we are going to put conference destruction atop our list of grievances.

Right behind the stupidity of trying to maintain a low-carb diet on Thanksgiving.


WSU: Oral history is a key part of any culture. Has been for millennia. It’s also a key part of Washington State’s football culture, as it relates to the Apple Cup. Greg Woods delves into how the importance of the rivalry game is passed down through the football generations in Pullman. … We linked Pat Chun’s thoughts yesterday when Matt Calkins’ column ran in the Seattle Times. The column is available in the S-R today. … The Huskies’ perfect season is on the line in this, the final Pac-12 Apple Cup any of us may ever see. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we can pass along Jon Wilner’s picks for this week’s games in the Mercury News. … We have others, both regionally and nationally, to pass along as well. … This is the final full weekend of the regular season and a lot of conference championship games will be decided. … John Canzano weighs in on Jonathan Smith’s future at Oregon State and explains why the grass, while greener on the other side, may not always be what it seems. … The Beavers kick off the weekend Friday when they travel to Eugene and attempt to ruin Oregon’s postseason plans in the most uncivil of ways. The Ducks have a two-game season which will decide if they play for a national title. Maybe. …  A running back believes Colorado would have been more successful if it had run the ball more? What a shock. … Utah would run it more if its running backs were healthy. … UCLA’s seniors are playing their final game in the Rose Bowl. And their final game in the Pac-12. … Not sure this has happened all that much but a Stanford player, ejected against Cal for targeting, had his penalty overturned by the conference office. … Arizona State wants to use the Territorial Cup battle with Arizona to wake the programs’ echoes. … How the heck did the Wildcats rise so far so fast in football? Wilner explores that today. … In basketball news, Wilner has put together his weekly basketball power rankings. … Arizona is on top but plays Michigan State today in the California desert. … Mark Madsen says one of his California players was called a “terrorist” by a fan prior to a confrontation. … Baylor ran away from Oregon State. … Colorado has to regroup after its first loss. … The USC women surged to a tournament win. … So did Stanford. … Last night contained a monumental win for Oregon State. … The season is starting out OK for Washington.

Gonzaga: We can guarantee in the some-60 games we coached with Anton Watson in the lineup, we never saw him score 32 points in any of them. Not that we saw him do it last night either. We were watching the second half of the Zags’ 69-65 victory over UCLA on our phone and fell asleep. The sound of whistles – 51 fouls were called – always does that to us. When we woke up in the middle of the night and checked the score, we figured there had to be at least a dozen guys who fouled out. A career scoring high for the fifth-year senior Watson wasn’t even on the radar, despite his hot start. After all, he sat most of the first half with two fouls and seem destined for more of the same in the second. We’re sad we missed it. Jim Meehan didn’t. He has the game story from Honolulu as well as the recap with highlights. … Dave Boling didn’t miss it either. He has this column about Watson and the Zags. … Theo Lawson wrote about the foul issues (and the foul whistles, to use the word in another way, though today “fowl” is probably more appropriates). He also has the difference makers. … Tyler Tjomsland spent the night taking photographs of guys shooting free throws. … The Bruins felt they were undone by foul trouble. Ya, only them.

EWU: On the night before the holiday, the Eagle men finally had a basketball result for which they could give thanks. With Walla Walla University in town, Eastern rolled 97-46. Dan Thompson has all the details. … Dan also spent some time during the day recapping the football season and looking toward the next one. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State rebounded for its first basketball loss with a win over UC Riverside. … Northern Colorado fell in the finals of its tournament in Cancun. … This happened Tuesday night but Idaho State picked up a 69-55 win over Campbell as freshman Kolton Mitchell, from Lake City High, had a career-best 18 points in just 25 minutes off the bench. … In football news, Sacramento State is prepping for its FCS playoff game. … Idaho State has a lot to be thankful for in Cody Hawkins’ first season.

Seahawks: No rest for the weary, of which the Hawks are probably one. After Sunday’s tough loss in L.A., they are home tonight to host the NFC West-leading 49ers. And they Seahawks are trying to show last year’s three blowouts losses to San Francisco are no longer in play. The big question, of course, is how Geno Smith will play, as he comes in with an elbow injury suffered Sunday. … A four-game gantlet for the Hawks starts tonight – sorry, this headline is incorrect, a gauntlet is a glove, a gantlet is a line of folks beating the crud out of you,

Kraken: How bad is San Jose? The Sharks are so bad it made us wonder if there is some generational talent going to be available in the next draft. Seattle scored seemingly at will in a 7-1 rout.

Mariners: We mentioned the M’s above. They cleared some space on the bottom line by trading Suarez to the Diamondbacks. Does the move portend a big signing? Another big trade? Or just a retrenchment into ownership’s Scrooge McDuck vault?


• We have lost about 30 pounds over the past three months, mainly reducing carbs considerably and counting calories. Lots of veggies and lean meats. Lots of hungry nights. But not tonight. We’re doubling our limits for Feast Day. Our son expects us to hit a wall pretty quickly. But with the first desert in a while calling to us from the middle of the table for the past couple days, we’re not going to be deterred. Though we may have to rethink our plan. Maybe we need to pace ourselves during the main course if we want to actually enjoy the pie. Dang it. Until later …